Despite a solid display of athleticism and more than a bit of aggression from both teams, DC United (9-20-5) was unable to leave Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium with one more win. In the last Major League Soccer match Sunday afternoon on the pitch at RFK in front of 41,418 spectators, the New York Red Bulls (14-12-8) defeated DC United 2-1.
Led by first-time captain Marcelo Sarvas, DC United opened the match with a parry-and-thrust attack that kept the Red Bulls on their side of the field more often than not. Each time the Red Bulls moved the ball onto the DC United’s side, DC responded by turning the ball back and moving the match back to the other end of the pitch.
The fires of frustration crept into the match ignited by a tangled dust-up between United’s forward Paul Arriola and Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence. Chasing the ball from opposite ends resulted in a loud, violent collision that brought both players to the ground, skidding across the end line and into advertising barriers surrounding the field. Arriola lay crumpled against the wall, not moving much.
Trainers from DC United rushed the field to check on Arriola, while Lawrence got up and walked away. The crowd voiced their displeasure in the play as three trainers attended the star DC United rookie. They worked quickly getting Arriola to sit upright, plug his bleeding nose, and perform a quick check of his eyes using the follow-my-finger test.
Although stunned by the impact, Arriola got up and walked to the sidelines, escorted by the team’s trainers. Within a few steps he looked fully alert and ready to return. No arguments came forth from those attending him. He was back in the match within two minutes of getting to his feet.
The wicked takedown of Arriola without Lawrence incurring the penalty of a yellow or red card left the RFK crowd truly unhappy. For some time during the first half, they booed Lawrence whenever he took possession of the ball. The crowd found some satisfaction about 10 minutes later in the match, when Arriola caught Lawrence with the ball and off-balance. The result was like a comet striking a planet. Lawrence rolled head-over-heels off the pitch, ending up on the ground and slightly confused for a few moments, amid a roar of approval from DC United fans.
As the first half drew to a close, in the 44th minute, Luciana Acosta crossed a pass from the left side of the pitch. Arriola took advantage of the pass and blasted the ball into the net for the first goal of the match. DC United went to the locker room at halftime in the lead 1-0 over the Red Bulls.
In the second half, the Red Bulls found a way to close up the gaps DC United had taken advantage of in the first half. Play between the teams was more of a 50/50 split on control. By the 65th minute, a palpable stress could be felt across the stadium. Attacks by the Red Bulls were causing trouble for DC United’s defense, a complete turnaround from before.
In the 68th minute, the Red Bulls unlocked the stress and scored their first goal of the match. On a beautifully-choregraphed passing game, the Red Bulls moved the ball into DC United territory. Red Bulls defender Michael Murillo picked up an assist by forward Muhamed Keita, putting the ball out of reach of the outstretched right hand of DC United keeper Steve Clark and into the back of the net.
Bill Hamid, the usual starter at the keeper position, sat this match out on the mezzanine level as he is now essentially a free agent and is reported to be looking at European leagues for a new placement.
In the 70th minute, Luciano Acosta was issued a red card for violent play. Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles and Acosta got into a verbal dispute that ramped up to a shove by Robles and a shove back by Acosta. Two other Red Bull players and the referee quickly joined the altercation. Acosta then responded in a manner that drew an immediate red card. Unfortunately for Acosta, the issue was not who started the altercation, but who responded and how. Down one player, DC United faced the remainder of the match with only 10 players on the pitch.
Five minutes after the red card, in the 75th minute, the Red Bulls scored again, as midfielder/forward Gonzalo Veron, made what would be the final goal of the match.
Down 2-1, DC United found the rhythm to keep the Red Bulls at bay, and held the NY team off from scoring any more goals through 15 minutes of regular play and 6 minutes of stoppage time. While not a win for their final match, it was a very exciting play of events.
Next year, DC United begin playing at their new home stadium, Audi Field in Washington, D.C. However, Acosta will not be joining his team on the pitch for the first match of next season, due to the red card penalty incurred in this game.
On the other side of soccer in the D.C. area, Washington Spirit midfielder Tori Huster will be on loan from the National Women’s Soccer League to the Australian W-League for the 2017-2018 season, playing for the Newcastle Jets. Huster joins local star Britt Eckerstrom of Germantown, goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns, NWSL champions for 2018. Huster returns to the Spirit in March of 2018.